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Supplements 101: Creatine

The topic of supplementation can be one of the most daunting in regards to bodybuilding and training. For me certainly, I was being flooded with terms such as “Creatine Monohydrate” and “Whey Isolate”, which at the time I had no clue what they were, how they were supposed to work and whether or not I should be getting them. In the end, I purchased nearly everything, based on what I was being told by anyone I met at the gym – with they themselves plucking “facts” out of thin air. Eventually wisening up to this, I went to the local Supplement store and was left even more puzzled about certain products when being told their ability to work one type of way from the staff and. So, I’ve decided to go over and outline the main types of supplements out there, how they work and whether or not they’re worth purchasing. First up, Creatine!

WHAT IS IT? HOW DOES IT WORK?

The first time I heard about Creatine it seemed to be some sort of god-send product that would instantly help me put on quality muscle mass! But when I questioned trainers and staff at supplement stores about how it works, the best I could get was “It increases muscle mass”. I’ll try not to get too scientific with this. Basically Creatine increases ATP synthesis, a chemical form of energy which therefore does mean it improves performance when working out. We do naturally produce creatine in the kidneys and liver and it can also be found in red meats, but this amount is nowhere near how much we get from a regular 5g dose of the supplement.

With that being said, our “baseline” creatine levels (how much we produce) varies between individual to individual. This changes the effectiveness of the supplement, because although it may help all of us out in the end, a person who has a low natural baseline is going to see more of a result than someone who had a high baseline to start off with anyway and who appears to be non-responsive after continuous dosage. And before you go Googling ways to improve your “baseline” – it’s genetics!

Hopefully that did not confuse you guys too much.

WHAT TYPE SHOULD I TAKE? HOW MUCH? WHEN?

Like with all supplements, supplement companies have tried to take as much money as possible from you guys by selling Monohydrate, Esterate and other forms, fooling many to think that one works better/in a different way than the other. My advice would be to go for the Monohydrate form; the cheapest of the lot and funnily enough the one that’s most proven!

Another scam that most users fall into is believing the dosage regimen that some of the companies recommend. This usually follows a Loading Phase of around 20g a day for a set period, followed by a Maintenance Phase of 3-5g a day for 12 weeks and then a resting phase where you take some time off. In reality there is no need to have a loading phase and you can just skip onto the maintenance phase straight away, because the saturation you’re meant to experience from the loading phase will happen after a month on the maintenance phase anyway; It’s just a way of getting you to use the product quicker!

It really does not matter when you take your dose; you can take it with your shake, on its own or with a drink, whether in the morning, afternoon or evening. Creatine works in the long term, with improvements being seen around three weeks after your first dose when you reach your saturation levels. So the timing of your doses within a day will not have any significant impact.

SIDE EFFECTS?

Although I may not be aware of what rumours may be flying around at the moment, there were certainly quite a few misinformed bros when I first started spreading crazy “facts” about the side effects of creatine causing bloating, kidney failure, cramps etc. In reality most of these are either total rubbish or seem logical in theory but have not been proven conclusively by reliable studies or sources.

DID YOU KNOW?

Creatine has a number of beneficial effects outside of bodybuilding. and is used for “congestive heart failure (CHF), depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, diseases of the muscles and nerves, an eye disease called gyrate atrophy, and high cholesterol. It is also used to slow the worsening of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, McArdle’s disease, and for various muscular dystrophies.” Source:WebMD

So there you have it, a brief introduction to Creatine. Feel free to do your own research into it if you want; there are many videos and sites giving their take on the supplement. For those of you still unsure, considering there haven’t been any proven side effects, try it and see if you notice any changes, if not then stop!

Of course, all information about whether or not the supplements are worth purchasing are my opinion, so it’s entirely up to you to decide based on the facts presented. My current supplement stack is pretty simple: A 5kg tub of Whey Protein Isolate and a small container of Vitamin and Mineral tablets!

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